Eight Facts About Education in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the leaders in education within the European Union. With a national initiative to have accessible education to all of its citizens, the Swiss education system ranks number six on the Study E.U. education ranking of 2018. So what exactly is it that allows for such a praiseworthy education system? These eight facts about education in Switzerland show why the country is so successful in the education of its people.

8 Facts About Education in Switzerland

  1. Canton School Systems: Each canton – a Swiss state – has primary responsibility for how the schools in their area are run. Effectively each canton runs their own education system, though there is an overruling federal educational system: The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Each canton can create its own structures such as school calendars and education plans. There is, however, an agreement among the cantons to keep a baseline level of continuity. This opens individuals up to the ability to shop the public schools that fit their own and their child’s needs.
  2. International Schools: Switzerland has a host of schools that cater to international families, operate bilingually or are privatized. This creates a smoother transition for English speaking individuals who can then benefit from education in Switzerland.
  3. Number of Schools: There are currently around 44 schools in Switzerland that specifically accommodate international students and are a part of the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS). This schooling goes from primary up to secondary and offers both day and boarding options. Many of the schools follow the Swiss canton curriculum, but many also provide curriculums based on the individual’s home country.
  4. Homeschooling: Homeschooling is not a common practice within Switzerland; some cantons have even outlawed it. In August 2019, the Swiss supreme court rejected a mother’s appeal to the right to homeschool her child. It declared “the right to private life does not confer any right to private home education.” The court also stated that the cantons have the right to decide what forms of schooling they will allow and are in the best interest of the children that reside within their districts. Only 1,000 children receive homeschooling throughout all of Switzerland, a country with more than 8.5 million citizens. Many are against homeschooling in Switzerland because they believe it to be a deprivation to the child’s social education. They believe that a child can only achieve this through daily peer interactions. Further, many believe that homeschooling causes inequality within society because not every family can afford its costs.
  5. Compulsory Education: Education in Switzerland is compulsory for all who reside in the country, regardless of legal residency status. Though it varies by canton, most children have mandatory education for 9 to 11 years. Children begin schooling anywhere from ages 4 to 6 and must stay in school until about the age of 15. Education is typically more sympathetic to the individual in Switzerland. Switzerland has adopted the idea that every child learns differently and requires different support structures within school.
  6. Formal, Vocational and Apprenticeship Training: After their compulsory education, children have the option to continue on with formal education or begin vocational and apprenticeship training. Even though attending a university is comparably more affordable in Switzerland than in other countries, many students opt for vocational and apprenticeship education. Apprenticeships and vocational training can last anywhere from two to four years and can equate to a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. This depends on the duration and weekly hours of involvement in the individual’s education.
  7. Specialized Education: Special education in Switzerland is a right. Specialized education professionals give individuals living with special needs free support until the age of 20. The cantons vary but typically offer special needs students access to both mainstream schools and special needs schools. The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASIE) assesses children before entering the special education system. It does this in order to determine and advise parents on what may be best for their child. Switzerland joined the EASIE in 2000 in an attempt to better integrate its special needs citizens into mainstream society.
  8. Free Schooling: Schooling is free—kind of. Though compulsory education is free, it does equate to higher taxes for citizens. Further, schools often ask many parents to help with providing school utensils for the classrooms. Many argue that Switzerland’s excellent educational system is because of the country’s vast amount of wealth and higher tax rates. After all, in 2019, a global report listed Switzerland as the wealthiest country in the world, accounting for 2.3 percent of the world’s top 1 percent of global wealth.

Switzerland’s educational system is the ultimate goal for what education should be across the world. These eight facts about education in Switzerland show how the country is striving to create a more learned and prosperous future for its youth. Switzerland is a fantastic example of a country that has met the fourth goal on the global goals for sustainable development: quality education.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty
Sports are not an easy ticket out of poverty, but sports programs for impoverished youth can provide skills, support and guidance that can strengthen individuals and communities. Developing physical, social and emotional health are just a few of the benefits that children can reap from participation in quality sports programs. Below are five youth sports programs alleviating poverty worldwide.

Five Youth Sports Programs Alleviating Poverty Worldwide

  1. Tiempo de Juego: Tiempo de Juego in Colombia considers the game of soccer to be a tool capable of transforming communities, developing the skills of boys and girls and inspiring them to become agents of change. Tiempo de Juego takes an academic approach to the game of soccer, identifying three areas of development: technical skills, psychosocial development and a pedagogical foundation. Through the common bond of soccer, Tiempo de Juego allies with seven local schools as well as families to bring positive social opportunities to the lives of community members. It even supports small business endeavors of families who provide goods and services such as screen-printed t-shirts and vending for soccer events.
  2. Line Up, Live Up: Line Up, Live Up is a life skill curriculum with various sports from martial arts to volleyball. The Youth Crime Prevention through Sports Initiative sprang from the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declarative and is taking roots in Palestine and Central Asia. In addition to physical exercise and teamwork, Line Up, Live Up helps kids learn life skills for resisting social pressures of drug use and delinquency. It also helps students with issues such as anxiety and communication with peers. Line Up, Live Up forms its basis from empirical research from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and also the understanding that risk factors in the lives of youth can be reduced through meaningful intervention. The belief that actual changes in attitudes and behaviors can take place drives the organization.
  3. Love Fútbol:  Love Fútbol emerged in 2006 after Drew Chafetz founded it on the platform that community-driven energy toward social change could happen on a universal passion for soccer. An avid soccer player who traveled widely, Drew noticed the unsafe and unsupervised conditions in which impoverished kids often played. Drew developed the philosophy that every child has the right to play soccer and he built that dream into fruition in a collaborative way.The first program started in Guatemala before expanding to Brazil. Each place Love Fútbol goes, the community plays a vital role in building the field and creating the program, thereby instilling their ownership in the process. Partnering with global sponsors, Love Fútbol provides funding for raw materials. In Colombia, Love Fútbol partnered with Tiempo de Juego that had the experience and the vision of implementing soccer programs in its own community but lacked the budget. Love Fútbol was able to help make its dreams a reality. The whole community built the field with the help of over 100 volunteers and 1,500 hours of labor. In another location in Mexico, the organization constructed a soccer field on the former site of a factory, bringing revitalization to the community. With well-maintained fields and supervised programs, impoverished participants can build healthier and more productive lives. Love Fútbol programs are growing throughout Latin America and these sports programs are alleviating poverty successfully.
  4. Waves for Change: Waves for Change is a unique program on this list, as it does not involve a ball game. Waves for Change is a surfing program for youth that face poor infrastructure, violence and poverty in Capetown, South Africa. Tim Conibear founded it in 2009 because he recognized that surfing was a great way to reach at-risk youth who would not otherwise have access to such activities. Primarily a mental health foundation, the program addresses the psychological and emotional well-being of kids who often experience trauma. Waves for Change teams with mental health professionals to address the issues of child mental health. Program leaders note an improvement in self-care and participation in school for those who take part in the program. Kids who grow up in gang culture are looking for risk and surfing can fulfill that need in a positive way. The organization is able to employ over 40 coaches who are former participants in the program. The activity instills pride, personal responsibility and a sense of self-worth.
  5. Cricket Program: Daniel Juarez, an accomplished cricket player in Argentina, founded Cricket Program. He established this program for the youth living in the most dangerous and impoverished slums of Argentina. Caacupe Community Center offers the cricket program. Pope Francis, formerly cardinal to Buenos Aires, is a benefactor as well as Rev. Pepe Di Paola who people know for his anti-crime work in area slums. Through the sport, kids receive an education and learn values. Some participants have developed their skills to such a high level as to qualify for national-level youth cricket teams. The organizers believe cricket provides a foundation that participants can carry with them throughout life. It even received a Best Spirit Award from the International Cricket Council.

Children worldwide have a natural drive and passion to play sports and these five sports programs are alleviating poverty worldwide. Poverty can inhibit access to good equipment, safe fields and quality instruction, but through innovative programs that engage community members and provide structure and funding, kids can experience the joy of play as well as build valuable life skills. The confidence gained can nurture lives and empower families in their rise from poverty.

Susan Niz
Photo: Flickr

El Salvador

The youth in El Salvador, one of the world’s most violent countries, face a lot of obstacles when it comes to getting an education. With the poverty rate at 31 percent and teen pregnancy on the rise, going to school and getting an education in El Salvador is not a simple feat. Avoiding gang violence, affording transportation and supplies, finding employment or valuable training after high school are all challenges that the youth in El Salvador face when it comes to receiving an education.

However, there are several companies and organizations aimed at improving the quality of education in El Salvador. These innovative companies develop programs and projects with the purpose of bettering the lives of the young. These programs help students with job training, English-language learning skills, sex education, brain education and education for students with disabilities.

IBREA and Brain Education

IBREA is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008, aimed at spreading knowledge about the relationship between the brain and body. Ilich Lee, the founder of IBREA believes that through holistic education like meditation, artistic expression and group work, people can achieve peace within themselves and eventually within their communities. IBREA has offered educational programs, seminars and carried out several projects in countries around the world including Liberia, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone and El Salvador.

IBREA began working in El Salvador in 2011 and is currently present in one-fourth of the country’s schools. IBREA has made a notable impact on a school in the district of Distrito Italia. This district is one of many deeply affected by gang violence and poverty in El Salvador. Students, teachers and principals alike have said that since the beginning they have noticed significant improvements in their physical health, stress levels, and motivation in IBREA programs. Other improvements include better peer relations, clarity, decision-making and emotion regulation. The IBREA Foundation is continuing to make strides in El Salvador and Ilich Lee has even received the “Jose Simeon Cañas” award from the previous president of El Salvador Salvador Sánchez Cerén for the positive impact IBREA has had on schools in El Salvador.

FULSAMO and Vocational Training

FULSAMO is a nonprofit organization based in El Salvador aimed at improving the lives and creating opportunities for at-risk youth in El Salvador. Through various programs located in Community Centers throughout El Salvador, FULSAMO works to keep the youth of El Salvador away from gang violence by offering training programs that help them find employment. Currently, FULSAMO has four locations in Soyapango, a municipality in El Salvador.

FULSAMO is currently offering training sessions for work in call centers. The course is six months long, and students are offered help finding relevant employment upon its completion. Unemployment for the youth in El Salvador is nearly 12 percent, but only 7 percent for El Salvador’s general population. Since youth are more at risk for joining gangs, programs like FULSAMO are vital for the betterment of the community. Aside from training opportunities, FULSAMO also offers programs centered on arts, music and leadership.

“Comunidades Inclusivas” for Children with Disabilities

“Comunidades Inclusivas” is a project created by an Education Professor at the University of Maryland. The goal of this project is to make education in El Salvador more accessible to people with disabilities. Through small programs and networks, Comunidades Inclusivas works to have people with disabilities more socially involved in their communities so these connections can be used as a means to more access to education.

In developing nations, it is likely that children living in poverty, who can’t afford supplies such as uniforms, will drop out of school. For children with disabilities who may need more or different resources and supplies than students without disabilities, their likelihood of dropping out is increased. According to the Global Citizen, 90 percent of children living with disabilities are not in school, and 80 percent of people with disabilities, live in developing countries. The El Salvadorian government has made an effort to improve the lives of those living with disabilities and has had previous laws protecting their rights to public transportation and employment in place for decades. In 2018 the El Salvadorian government also passed an act that allowed the Basic Solidarity Pension Fund to apply to people with disabilities.

Through a partnership with International Partners, a nonprofit organization, Comunidades Inclusivas developed “Circulos de Amigos.” This is an initiative that connects people in a community who support and aid people with disabilities. Members of Circulos de Amigos support people with disabilities and their families by providing assistance during home visits, building ramps, and other specific needs. By improving the connection between people with disabilities and their community, Comunidades Inclusivas raises awareness and builds support systems for people with disabilities and their families. This ultimately makes education in El Salvador more of a possibility for people with disabilities.

Sex Education in Centro Escolar

Although teen pregnancy is prevalent in El Salvador, some educators aim to teach their students about sex education despite cultural stigmas. Females between 10 and 19 years old account for one-third of all pregnancies in El Salvador. In Panchimalco, a district south of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, educators are taking the risk of teaching sex education, but do it in a way that avoids scrutiny.

Because sex education in El Salvador is sometimes associated with contraceptives and abortion, certain teachers (whose real identities are hidden) in Panchimalco take a different approach when trying to inform students about sex education to avoid ridicule from people in the community. For example, the courses inform students about gender rights and gender equality. This is especially important since the homicide rate for females is 12 for every 100,000 people and over 60 percent of females over the age of 15 have experienced some form of abuse by a male. Sex education courses help students recognize sexual violence, report sexual violence, recognize their rights, and plan for the future.

Although sex education is just in its beginning stages, if it continues, the bravery from teachers will make a difference in student’s lives.

– Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

Top 5 Reasons for School Dropouts in Tonga
Tonga, a Polynesian country and archipelago comprising of total 169 islands (36 inhabited) has achieved tremendous progress in improving the nation’s primary school enrollment. Although these rates are high, the school completion rates continue to decrease. About 3,000 Tongan students drop out of secondary school each year. In the text below, the top five reasons for school dropouts in Tonga are presented.

Top Five Reasons for School Dropouts in Tonga

  1. Due to tight household budgets, Tongan youths are now looking to get into the workforce as soon as possible. Dropping out of school and entering the workforce is deemed necessary when household funds are low because income is needed in order to survive. It was reported that 25 percent of Tongan households live under the poverty line, not having enough money to provide for basic needs. Male dropout rates are higher compared to female dropout rates. It is important to note that there is a higher percentage of men that participate in the workforce compared to women.
  2. About 88 percent of Tongans live in rural areas, therefore, Tonga’s remote location is driving Tongan youths to search for employment opportunities in other countries such as New Zealand and Australia. Dropping out of school to look for employment opportunities in different countries is more appealing than attending and graduating from school because graduating doesn’t necessarily guarantee employment in Tonga. Tonga is currently struggling to keep up with the high demand for jobs.
  3. Religion plays a huge role in many Tongan households and it is an important cultural factor that can affect whether or not Tongan youths continue their education. In many Tongan households, most of their money is spent on personal expenses, emergencies, church donations and education. Church donations were the second most popular use of mobile money transfers and remittances. Education tends to come in last on that list due to the importance of necessities and their devotion to the church. Since household budgets are tight, there may not be enough income or it is not seen as a top priority for Tongan youths to continue their education.
  4. The lack of diverse and targeted vocational training programs in Tonga is driving Tongan youth to look for employment and educational opportunities elsewhere. Many Tongan youths become disinterested and drop out of school because they are seeking vocational programs that will equip them with skills that will help them into the workforce. Unfortunately, Tonga is not yet able to offer Tongan youths these options.
  5. About 70 percent of Tongan adults reported receiving remittances from migrant family members and relatives. Remittances have become a very common source of income for many Tongan households. Tongan youths see the importance and dependency of remittances in their households, therefore, it is seen as one of the only options to provide for their families. This also pushes Tongan youths to drop out of school.

Work of Nongovernmental Organizations

Various nongovernmental organizations have been working on providing employment and education opportunities for Tongan youths. The Skills Employment for Tongans Project aims to help the Tongan government to create a cash transfer program to help Tongan households with their tight household budgets. It also will provide technical and vocational education training courses to help Tongan youths establish skills that will allow them to become employable in Tonga and in other countries.

The Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Project (PEARL). The goals of this organization are to help children gain skills that will prepare them for school and help them learn to read and write for their first years of primary school. Preparing Tongan children at an early age will help implement the idea that education is important.

These top five reasons for school dropouts in Tonga are still problems that the nation of Tonga is facing, but the Tongan government is getting help from various nongovernmental organizations in trying to keep up with the high demand for employment and educational opportunities. It is a difficult task, but with the joint effort of government and NGOs, as well as other countries, this can be achieved.

– Jocelyn Aguilar

Photo: Flickr

Work and Travel USA
The Work and Travel USA program is a United States’ government program that offers foreign students an opportunity to work and travel across the country through the provision of a J1 work visa. The program allows over 100,000 students to come to the U.S. into a variety of cities and towns across the country each summer.

Advantages of Work and Travel USA

Prior to moving to the U.S. for the summer, students find an employment opportunity in the U.S. through their respective work and travel agencies. Upon arrival, four months of work are defined and nearly a month’s time of travel and leisure for each student, depending on their savings throughout the summer. The program offers foreign students the unique opportunity to earn thousands of U.S. dollars, experience American life and culture through personal interaction and work experience as well as the privilege of repatriating thousands of dollars back into their respective country’s currency when they inevitably return home. Unless they decide not to return home.

Middle Classes of US and Russia

According to the Pew Research Foundation, approximately half of the U.S. population that totals to around 320 million citizens reside in middle-class households. Despite a strong representation of middle-class American citizens, financial gains for middle-income Americans during this period were modest compared with those of higher-income households, causing the income disparity between the two groups to grow.

Contrary to the United States, Russia’s middle class has shrunken to the point of nonrecognition. In developed countries, the middle class is an essential class, the guarantor of social and political stability, legislator of norms of socio-economic and cultural behavior. Its representatives are characterized by independence and critical thinking that facilitate the development of civil society and the efficiency of state management. In Russia’s developing nation, the middle class is parceled into ultra-rich oligarchs that, in fact, represent the elite and the derelict poor on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Motivations for Work and Travel Program

Russian student candidates for the Work and Travel USA program fall somewhere in the middle. They are aged from 18 to 28 years, have a proficiency in English, belong to a travel agency with a work arrangement, they have obtained all legal documents to work in the U.S. for three to four months and have successfully completed at least one semester at their home university.

The motivations for applying to the Work and Travel USA program appear obvious, but American laborers and academics seldom realize the hidden incentives behind a J1 visa and its political power. On average, candidates for the Work and Travel USA program initially put up over $1,200 in program fees and paperwork in order to be afforded a J1 visa and to work in the United States. The granting of this visa grants temporary freedom to a Russian student that he or she is seldom likely to experience while living, studying and working in Russia.

Matters of poor higher education standards and poverty in the form of household income, per capita GDP, social exclusion on the basis of sexual orientation and gender and geographic/geopolitical disenfranchisement are the primary motivations for a select few Russian J1 visa holders to defy the Work and Travel USA agreement and ultimately overstay their visas in pursuit of residency, a green card and, ultimately, American citizenship.

Misuse of Work and Travel USA

The J1 visas awarded to students through the Work and Travel USA program have become a solution to middle-class poverty students in Russia for escaping the country. Rather than committing to a broken system of higher education or working tirelessly in a blue-collar trade, many young Russians are overstaying their visas while in the U.S. in preparation for a new life. Due to matters of conflicted interest, Russian travel agencies and the U.S. government do not disclose precisely how many J1 visa holders overstay their visitor status.

The issue of overstayed J1 students obviously concerns the internal environment of Russia and its connection to poverty. Young Russian citizens know better than to assume the state of affairs in Russia will improve to the point where poverty will be alleviated nationwide. Thus, students fortunate enough to make the cut and receive the J1 visa often pursue the Work and Travel USA program with nefarious and permanent intent.

There are real solutions to solve this suboptimal state for young Russians in the middle class. The establishment of lobbyist groups to improve higher education standards will begin to set positive trends in motion. There is however the persisting issue of Russians wanting to visit the USA with the intent of returning home. Programs and measures taken must work to encourage all Russian J1 holders to return home without disadvantaging those who seek the program with integrity.

Conversely, the issue of overstaying can be reframed entirely. Perhaps the U.S. can begin to set up incubator programs for foreign students who overstay their visa in order to afford them the necessary legal resources so they may make legitimate claims to the residence. If Russia refuses to enact policy that addresses its middle-class poverty issue, perhaps it is time for the United States to step up and show how far legislation can go to improve the lives of law-abiding people.

– Nicholas Maldarelli

Photo: Pixabay

Education in Israel
Although Israel as a whole is a highly educated country, its Arab minority does not fare as well in attaining higher education. Arabs and Jews typically attend separate schools, and the state education budget is unevenly skewed towards funding Jewish schools. Unequal access to education has long term consequences and in most cases result in poverty and unemployment of Arab minorities.

An Educated Nation

Education in Israel is treated with importance. Consequently, the nation is a leader among OECD members for the percentage of citizens completing tertiary education. According to the 2013 OECD publication, 46 percent of Israelis aged from 25 to 64 hold a post-secondary degree, well above the group’s average of 32 percent. Additionally, Israel’s population is younger than the average. Over 42 percent of the population is younger than 25, providing a continuous stream of students and young professionals that are entering the workforce.

A precursor and important supplement to tertiary education in Israel is mandatory military service. Conscription begins at the age of 18, lasting three years for men and two years for women. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is structured into different units, with conscripts sorted among them based on military and technical aptitude. The most prestigious IDF unit is the Talpiot, noted for its scientific innovation. It combines military service with rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, giving its participants transferrable skills for university education and preparing them for the job market.

Challenges in Education in Israel

Primary education in Israel tends to be highly segregated. This segregation is representative of Israel as a whole as, according to Foreign Policy Magazine, 90 percent of Arab-Israelis live in all Arab communities. Separating children by ethnicity and religion limits their ability to learn about one another’s culture firsthand.

In addition to learning in isolation from their Jewish counterparts, Arab-Israeli schools receive less funding and do not meet the same educational benchmarks. Whether measured in standardized test scores, high school graduation rates or university matriculation, Arab-Israelis consistently lag behind. One of the more startling statistics regarding education in Israel is the per-pupil funding figure that can be almost 88 percent lower than that of a Jewish student. Furthermore, Arab-Israelis are not required to serve in the IDF, depriving them of the vocational training Jewish soldiers receive.

Consequences on the Country

Poverty in Israel is high compared to other Western industrialized nations and especially pronounced among Arabs. While poverty rates are decreasing, nearly half (49.4 percent) of Israel’s Arab population lives below the poverty line. Lack of education and underemployment plays a key role in Israel’s poverty rate, as over half of the poor families are working families.

Poverty creates a bad environment and makes people prone to crime, and the poverty present in Arab communities contributes to higher crime rates than Israel’s average. Most alarming is the increase in violent crime, including weapons violations and assaults. According to a 2018 article published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Arab citizens were involved in 40 percent of violent offenses and in 60 percent of the murder cases in the country, despite only comprising 20 percent of Israel’s population. As many Arab-Israelis feel marginalized socio-economically, some resort to violence as a means to make ends meet.

Solutions to the Problem

Both the Israeli government and nongovernmental organizations are working to ameliorate the educational gap between Arabs and Jews. One nongovernmental organization called Hand in Hand that serves as a center for Jewish-Arab education in Israel strives to bring Arabs and Jews together in the classroom. According to the organization’s mission statement, it currently operates in six schools, with the goal of expanding in at least 10 schools and 20,000 pupils in the next decade.

In terms of governmental reforms, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett pushes for both increased spending and a curriculum overhaul. The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel’s 2019 education budget of around $140 billion will surpass its defense budget. This is an astonishing development for a country that faces a vast array of security threats in its immediate vicinity.

Addressing the academic gap between Jewish and Arabic students, Bennett urges Arab schools to emphasize Hebrew and English instruction claiming that its absence is a barrier to future employment. The future of education in Israel depends both on integrating Arab students with their Jewish counterparts and addressing the structural problems present in underperforming schools.

– Joseph Banish

Photo: Flickr

Education in the NunavikEducation in the NunavikEducation in the Nunavik
The Nunavik is a region located at the north of the Quebec region in Canada. With an area of 507,000 km2, it is home primarily to Aboriginal population, especially the Inuit. With struggles for land rights still occurring in this area, problems of large inequalities in health care and, in particular, education, persist. Inequity in education in the Nunavik is an important issue impacting many young lives and future livelihoods.

Country Overview

According to the OECD, Canada is the most educated country in the world with 56.2 percent of adults completing two-year, four-year or vocational program. In 2010, Canada had a graduation rate of 78.3 percent, making many think that almost everyone can get a diploma. While this national graduation rate may be high, the graduation rate for the Aboriginal youth population in 2011 was only about 24 percent. In comparison, the graduation rate for non-Aboriginal youths in the country was almost 87 percent. There is a huge disparity it the educational attainment in indigenous population, in this case, the Inuit, and in non-indigenous population.

Problems at Different Levels

The question, of course, is why this difference exists? Many failures can be linked to the ineffectiveness of policy initiatives created by officials at the local (Nunavik), regional (Quebec) and national (Canada) level. One example of the inefficiencies happened in 2015 when former Nunavik students learned that their high school diplomas were not in fact real diplomas, but certificates that indicate the “attestation of equivalence of secondary studies.”

While the school board apologized, nothing could be done for the students who worked hard with the resources that they had for their achievements. While this is a problem that came about at a local level, the provincial and national governments did not aide the local government either. The school board that oversees Nunavik education has also placed responsibility on the provincial Minister of Education for not providing more funds and help to the schools.

Alleviating the Problem of Education in the Nunavik

Improving education in the Nunavik is a key component to alleviating poverty and improving livelihoods of the citizens of the region. The first step to solving this education crisis is by recognizing the problem, and this is being done both by the Canadian government and by various nongovernmental organizations. The 2018 Canadian budget dedicated almost $12 billion for investment in indigenous populations through various education endeavors, housing programs and health initiatives.

One nongovernmental organization that is doing incredible work for the Inuit population in Canada is Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. This a national organization that has a goal to represent all Inuit women in Canada, giving them a voice and better access to educational opportunities. This group works with policymakers, other organizations and community leaders to develop ideas and solutions that are most beneficial to the Inuit population.

Another incredibly important nongovernmental organization is Indspire, a cross-national Indigenous-led charity that invests in Indigenous education all across Canada. Indspire has a virtual learning center called the K-12 Institute that helps policymakers, educators and community members best educate the Indigenous population. It also has awarded over $14 million for 2018 school year through about 4,900 scholarships to Indigenous students to advance their studies. This is an incredible organization because it is run by people who understand the struggles of educational attainment in Indigenous communities.

Disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous population have a long history in Canada, but these disparities will decrease with the work of nongovernmental organization such as Indspire and Paktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, along with the country’s government actions. By educating as many people as possible about the inequality, individuals and the government can continue to work hard to close the gap of education in the Nunavik and in whole Canada as well.

– Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

Education Programs in South Africa
Education programs in South Africa have been working tirelessly to aid the country’s effort to establish a holistic and accessible education system. Education is one of the key aspects that can successfully diminish the level of poverty that the country faces. By educating the youth, the country creates opportunities for individuals to escape the cyclical chains of poverty and pursue career paths that can provide them with higher standards of living.

South Africa’s education system is still recovering from the 1953 Bantu education law that essentially targeted the black community and their access to education, resulting in a depletion of opportunities for them to gain education and resources to pursue a career other than that of laborers. The government is currently focusing on this issue, but aid is still necessary. In 2017, the South African government allotted 17 percent of its budget to education. While this is a good statistic, much of this has focused higher
education, so early childhood and basic education are areas that still need improvement.

WonLife

WonLife is one the education programs in South Africa. It is a nonprofit organization registered in 1999 that focuses on providing holistic education and health resources to the youth and educational programs for the teachers as well. The organization has been working in the impoverished area of Fisantekraal, South Africa, located right outside of Durbanville. Explained in detail below are the four mains focus areas within the organization.

The Early Learning Centre

This is a registered, independent, Grade-R preschool that was established in 2007. Grade-R means that this center doesn’t only provide a curriculum that will prepare the kids for their next school year, but holistic education socially, mentally and physically gives young students the foundation for a lifetime of learning. The center receives about 120 students a year. Starting out at as a daycare, the early learning center has become a safe haven, both emotionally and physically, for young children to go and discover the world around them without harm or threat from the poverty-stricken area in which most of them live. The center is now equipped with one principal, four teachers, two assistant teachers and two kitchen/facilities staff.

The Literacy Centre

The Literacy Centre was opened in May 2013. Its goal is to provide children with critical reading and comprehension skills. Students in grades one through three need these skills as a foundation for the rest of their academic careers, which is why WonLife created a center dedicated to making sure each child obtains this knowledge before moving on to higher education. The program uses curriculum from Shine Literacy, a nonprofit organization focused on English literacy. The Literacy Centre also facilitates a much smoother transition for students that come in speaking
Xhosa, one of the native Bantu languages, by helping them master English before moving into the intermediate phase of schooling.

High School Programme

The High School programme has two focuses: health and education. For health, the programme works with external organizations to provide health care to students. Some examples of these organizations are OneSight, that offers eye-care to students and The Usapho Foundation that offers teen parenting workshops for young parents attempting to continue their education. In respect to education, the programme has an Education Centre. This is a secure environment that provides students with the sources and space to study and work on homework and projects. Coming from a poverty-stricken area, a large issue for students is finding a safe-haven where they can work on their schooling without distraction or danger. The High School Programme plays a huge role in helping these students advance their academic careers in a healthy and safe state.

Teacher Mentorship Programme

Established in 2015, the Teacher Mentorship Programme shifts the focus from the students to the teachers. Teachers that are working in local schools often have a problem in the sense that they received an education at an underperforming school and have lack of exposure to formal teaching training. Recognizing the importance of capable teachers in the effort to further education in South Africa, WonLife worked with one of the local government schools to create this programme. The programme mentors and coaches teachers to improve lesson planning, lesson delivery, student assessment and classroom set-up.

It also provides teachers with soft skills like effective communication, professionalism, teamwork and time management. It currently equips 15 teachers working at Trevor Manual Primary School with the tools to provide a holistic education to their students. There are 200 students within each grade, totaling at 600 students between the grades one through three. This means that teachers have the opportunity to reach and benefit the educational trajectory of 600 students a year.

WonLife is only one example of education programs in South Africa that are working to improve education, especially in early childhood. The organization offers newsletters that give updates to the state and progress of their work being done in Fisantekraal. By facilitating holistic education to the youth of South Africa, they are providing people with opportunities to have choices and break the cycle of poverty, eventually lowering overall rates of poverty. The presence of WonLife, and organizations like it, will
do wonders to improve the quality of life and growth of South Africa as a country.

– Mary Spindler
Photo: Flickr

Education in India
India, the home of 1.2 billion people, is a vast and diverse country. While the overall literacy rates have been on the upward trend recently, rising from 64.8 percent in 2001 to 74 percent in 2011, there are still approximately 1.7 million children who are out of primary school.

Education in India

Within the country, there are also vast differences in the literacy rates among the different regions and states. The highest ranking state by literacy in the country in Kerala with 93.9 percent while the lowest ranking state, Bihar, has a literacy rate at 63.8 percent.

The main barriers that prevent children from accessing education in India are poverty, gender discrimination and lack of resources in schools as teachers lack training and schools are overcrowded. On the national level, 41 percent of schools lack basic hygiene service. There is either no facility or no water. The gap between male and female literacy rates has shrunk from 21.59 percent in 2001 to 16.68 percent in 2011 and the increase in literacy during the same period is 6.9 percent for boys and 11.8 percent for girls. However, there is still a persisting gap in the overall literacy rates as 82.1 percent of males are literate compared to 65.5 percent of females.

Child Labor

Children from marginalized underprivileged groups face other barriers to accessing education in India. They are often victims of trafficking, sexual and labor exploitation as well as domestic service. Some are forced to work to repay family debts. Forced child labor in India is primarily in the garment-making and quarrying industries.

Some children also perform dangerous work producing bricks. According to UNICEF, around 11 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working. The government has made efforts to deal with child labor, passing legislation such as the Child Labor Act, but the problem persists.

OSCAR Foundation’s Work

The OSCAR (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) Foundation aims to keep children in school by teaching underprivileged children from the poorest communities life skills and values through football. Children in the program learn not only to play the game but, more importantly, to value the education that empowers them to reach their full potential. The kids involved in OSCAR’s programs go on to become role models and make a positive change in their communities.

Akshay Chavan, a 16-year-old boy, has been with the organization for seven years. He is a player, coach and leader, currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce in St. Xavier’s college in Mumbai. As a young child, he suffered from an injury with lots of complications. In the 2017 Annual Report for OSCAR Akshay confessed: “On the first day itself, I felt welcomed. The coaches encouraged me to play, and the rest of the team was very supportive. They motivated me when I felt low. I developed a strong connection with OSCAR friends and started feeling confident enough to fight for myself.”

Founded in 2006, this nonprofit organization’s main goal is to prevent children from dropping out of school and improving education in India. So far, they have directly or indirectly impacted over 3,000 children in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Ut Delhi. The organization nurtures and develops children’s talents and encourages them to become leaders and responsible citizens. OSCAR has three core programs: Young Leader’s Programme, Football Programme and Education Programme.

The Young Leader’s Programme aims to give young children the opportunity to create their own careers and make a change in their communities. Children older than 17 years in the football program who show potential to be good leaders are selected and go through a training process of workshops in football coaching and personal development.

The Football Programme teaches children from ages 5 through 22 not only football skills but also how to be consistent and value their education and focuses on girl’s empowerment.

The Education Programme is specifically aimed at children who struggle in school and provides them with educational assistance. They currently help 400 children in subjects like Hindi, Maths and English. As part of that program, the Foundation has three projects. They provide tuition and additional classes to pupils who experience difficulties in learning, teach children computer skills and offers scholarships to children from low-income families to complete their higher secondary education.

Poverty Alleviation

Over 30 percent of the world’s children living in extreme poverty are located in India. While everyone is negatively affected by poverty, children suffer the most detrimental effects. Living in poverty stunts their development, limits their access to education and keeps generations stuck in the cycle. Low-income communities have other issues related to poverty like substance abuse, early childhood marriage and gambling because education also influences morality.

Education and literacy’s positive outcomes are endless. They are linked to an overall improvement of the quality of life- life expectancy, infant mortality, nutritional levels, migration and other aspects of life. The OSCAR Foundation started out by addressing community issues in the Ambedkar Nagar slum in Mumbai and has grown to reach thousands of young people. By doing something as simple as holding several football sessions a week, they are transforming children’s lives and constantly improving children’s education in India.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr

youth, education, morocco
Morocco is a North African country that has seen great improvements in the education sector in recent years.

Thanks to an increase in public spending, and several programs currently in place helping to improve youth education in Morocco, the country has drastically improved the populations’ literacy rates and education system as a whole.

Decade of Education

Morocco had the largest increase in youth literacy in the world between 2000 and 2015. The increase in this time span was 24.6 percent. The result of these efforts was the youth literacy that was vastly improved and that was at 95.1 percent in 2015.

This increase can largely be attributed to the Moroccan government’s Decade of Education. This program was established in 2000, with the goal of increasing enrollment rates and closing the gender gap in education. The program has been more than successful, closing the gender gap to 3.5 percent, and benefiting the 735,000 Moroccan youth with literacy and educational programs in 2012 alone.

The United States Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded Morocco with an honorable mention in the 2012 UNESCO Confucius prize, a prize that is awarded to the nations who show great improvement in literacy rates.

Partnering of USAID and Morrocan Government

Despite the vast improvement in literacy rates, there is still work to be done in the educational sector in the country. Drop-out rates are still high, with only 53 percent of students moving on from middle to high school and less than 15 percent of first-grade students likely to graduate from high school.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with the Moroccan government to improve education on a number of levels including reading, hiring more teachers and administrators and distributing reading materials.

The results of the partnership have been successful, to say the least. More than 12,000 students have been helped by the new reading method, over 340 teachers have been instructed on new reading material, an educational program to help deaf students through sign language is now offered by 10 schools across Morocco.

In 2017, a nationwide program was established to implement a phonics-based educational reading method in grades 1 and 2 in order to further develop youth education in Morocco.

Through the collaboration of the government and different nongovernmental organizations, tens of thousands of new teachers were trained every year and primary education rates rose from 53.4 percent to 98.2 percent between 2000 and 2009.

Vision 2030

Public spending on education has risen considerably in recent years. Over 21 percent of total government spending was used for education in 2014, which accounted for 5.9 percent of GDP that year. Public spending on education has risen by 5 percent per year almost every year since 2002.

The Moroccan Minister of National Education and Vocational Training unveiled a new educational project known as Vision 2030 during the presentation of national education budget projection in 2015.

The project will put emphasis on several levels of educational improvement, including mastering the Arabic language, a working knowledge of foreign languages and integrating general education with vocational training.

Youth Education in Morocco has been steadily improving thanks to government programs and nonprofits donating time and money to help the cause. The country continues to explore future ideas to continue to improve the quality of education in the country.

– Casey Geier

Photo: Flickr